Tuesday 12 March 2013

Clegg versus Huhne five years on

I have been keeping this blog now for more than five years, sometimes more enthusiastically than other times.  I began it during the Lib Dem leadership election in 2007, and my first post announced portentously - to the couple of people who saw it - that I was going to vote for Nick Clegg.

"I know him to be one of those few in the Lib Dems who recognise the power of new ideas in politics, who understand that the party desperately needs to have a renewed purpose," I wrote then, and I stand by it now.

But voting for Clegg as leader did not mean any lack of confidence in Chris Huhne.   He has a series of absolutely vital achievements under his belt during his foreshortened political career.  His cabinet struggles with his Conservative colleagues about the importance of investment will turn out to be hugely significant when the history of these years is written.

I remember talking to him at the special Birmingham conference to ratify the coalition in May 2010, and thinking that I had never seen someone look quite so alive - becoming a Lib Dem cabinet minister must have been surprise enough; I did not then know that he was in a new relationship too.  

So the sequence of events which led to the courtroom yesterday is a human tragedy - and more than that.  It is a reminder of how fickle fate can be, a kind of memento mori for all of us, which I am desperately trying to keep in perspective.

I watched Nick Clegg fielding questions at the Brighton conference over the weekend, and felt huge confidence in him - as he clearly feels in himself.  I didn't agree with everything he said - the Funding for Lending scheme is not a success, and was never going to be (the banks are the wrong infrastructure, but that is another story).   I felt secure in my own mind that we had made the right choice in 2007, but I recognise - as I'm sure he does too - how difficult it is to be part of any kind of ferment of new ideas when you are at the heart of government.

What is extraordinary to me is this.  Back then, when we chose a leader between Clegg and Huhne - would anyone have believed it if we knew that, five years later, one of them would be deputy prime minister and the other would be in jail?

1 comment:

Steve Comer said...

Of course its probable that Huhne did win more votes than Clegg, the trouble was they were delayed by a postal strike in London!
He made what seemed to be the honourable decision not to challenged the result, or make an issue of the postal problems, though he had a good case for arguing that the deadline for receipt of votes should have been extended.

Of course if Chris Huhne had won, he'd have got all the flak over the coalition, tuition fees etc. I believe he would have handles some of the early dynamics of the coalition better than Clegg did. he would of course had to resign last year, and the likley result would have been his replacement by Clegg.

In overall terms I feel the Lib Dems would have been better off with the 'parallel universe' scenario above!